Sailplane pilots challenge gravity, finding the air's natural currents as they discover the world of silent flight.
Even though I was only 5 years old, I knew I was going to fly someday.For as long as I can remember, I've been fascinated by the sky. My mom says that ever since I saw one of the Apollo moon launches, I've been looking up.
Just after I turned 20, I dove into the shallow end of a friend?s swimming pool and broke my neck; this left me functioning as a C6-7 quadriplegic. During one of the many "life on the outside" presentations at the rehab center, a pilot from Freedom's Wings International showed a video on sailplane flying for people with disabilities.
I put off flying for the next six summers until I finally contacted Ray Temchus, Freedom's Wings International president. After my first flight, I was hooked. Besides believing I could learn to control this aircraft just as successfully as any able-bodied person could, I had finally found something that didn't require my using a wheelchair.
Soon after I began flight training with Freedom's Wings, I found I wanted a career in aviation more than ever. While learning to fly the Grob, I wished I could earn a living doing something I loved so much, but the accessibility factor kept me believing this was impossible.
I plan to continue flying with Freedom's Wings and teaching aeronautics and flight instruction. Sometimes I wonder why it took such a debilitating injury to give me the push I needed to find my path in life.
Whether or not I'm in a wheelchair, my destiny remains the same: flying high in the skies above.
Freedom's Wings International, Inc., is a nonprofit organization run by and for people with physical disabilities. FWI provides the opportunity to fly in hand-control-equipped sailplanes either as a passenger or member of the flight-training program.
Contact: Freedom's Wings International, Inc., 1832 Lake Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ 07076. (908) 232-6354 / www.freedomswings.org
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